Meeting the Gambian village chiefs – the Alkalo’s – see their portraits on exhibition for the first time in The Gambia

Something for the weekend…

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Expedition leaders, Jason and Helen. on a red dusty road with Paddy, the donkey. From 930km African odyssey


If you are new to the story,  in short, in 2009, photographer, Jason Florio, myself, and three Gambian team mates, two donkeys and a cart to carry camera and camping equipment, walked around the small West African country of The Gambia – ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – 930km African odyssey,  on what would be the first fully documented circumnavigation of the country, completely by foot.


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Alkalo (village chief), Dam Sallah, and the village elders come to welcome the team – Kerr Sat Maram, The Gambia. From 930km African Odyssey. Image © Jason Florio


On the way around, we were warmly welcomed by many, many different Alkalo’s – male and female – who Jason then photographed. The formal portraits  of the chiefs and elders became an award-winning body of work, entitled: ‘Silafando – a gift to you on behalf of my journey‘.


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Team mates: Janneh, Jason, with Alkalo Dadi Bah, Helen, & Momadou, in the tiny village of Tuba Dabbo, The Gambia. From 930km African Odyssey. Image by team mate, Samba Leigh


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Alkalo Jare Sowe, Jason Florio, & Samba Leigh, Falleng Koto, The Gambia. From 930km African Odyssey. Image © Helen Jones-Florio


'Silafando' The Gambia © Jason Florio
Alkalo Jare Sowe, Felling Kotto, The Gambia – from ‘Silafando’ © Jason Florio


If you are in The Gambia, there is still a few more days to see the ‘Silafando‘ exhibition (until 30th April, 2015), at Gaya Art Cafe, Bertil Harding Highway (next door to Senegambia main craft market). And, to see and read more of the back story of the 930km walk, then please visit our ‘930km African Odyssey‘ blog.


Related Post: ‘Silafando’ exhibition opening

Press: Review of exhibition opening – ‘Silafando’ – portraits of village chiefs by Jason Florio, The Gambia, West Africa

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Photographer, Jason Florio, and photography & expedition producer, Helen Jones-Florio, at the opening of ‘Silafando’ – photo © Anna Wedin, for


A big thank you to Anna Wedin, who came to review the opening of our ‘Silafando‘ exhibition, at Gaya Art Café, Gambia, a couple of weeks ago, for – Jason Florio’s award-winning portraits of Gambian village chiefs (‘alkalos’) and elders were taken whilst we were on ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – 930km African odyssey‘, completely by foot, in 2009

Read Anna’s review on the site. If you would like to translate the article, try

The exhibition runs through April 30th, 2015. Click here for location details.


Related posts: Exhibition Opening / Silafando / Photo Exhibition – Silafando

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Jason Florio – Image © Helen Jones-Florio



Exhibition opening: ‘Silafando’ – Jason Florio’s Gambian village chief portraits

Friday 3rd April, 2015 – Gaya Art Café, The Gambia, West Africa

Abdou & Ebou (2nd & 3rd from left), Helen, Jason, Sarjo (Abdou’s daughter), and Samba Leigh – Gaya Art Cafe exhibition opening


It was an honour to have Gambian team members present (above), at the exhibition opening, from both the ‘Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – 930km African odyssey 2009 (on which Florio’s ‘Silafando‘ portraits were shot), and from ‘River Gambia – 1044km source-sea African odyssey, 2013-14, expeditions.


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What a pleasure to welcome so many familiar faces and to meet new ones. It’s also not uncommon, at Gambian events, to rub shoulders – have a chat over a drink and canapés, as one does – with Ministers, Ambassadors, High Commissioners… . It’s what I really like about being in this tiny West Africa country – few people, however important their status, are truly unapproachable (Jason even had a brief tête-à-tête with the President a short while ago). For us, this informality has been invaluable in procuring official letters of introduction, to ease our passage as we travelled along by land and river, on both our West Africa expeditions.

So, thank you to all those dignitaries who came to support our arts and culture event last Friday, and especially to friends, old and new. Jason and I came away feeling that we’d tasted a little slice of the exhibition gatherings we love to frequent – when we are at home in New York – here at Gaya Art Café, in The Gambia.

Speaking of Gaya’s – huge thanks to everyone there for all their support and for allowing us to exhibit the Gambian chiefs in such a splendid setting. You guys rock – as does Gregor O’ Gorman, who curates the exhibitions there.

If you missed the opening, fear not. The exhibition will run until the end of April, 2015 – Mon-Saturday – outside in the garden and inside the restaurant.

'Silafando' The Gambia © Jason Florio
Herouna Tunkara with his Horse – ‘Silafando’ The Gambia © Jason Florio


You can see Jason Florio’s complete, award-winning, ‘Silafando‘ body of work on his website :

The Florios – Helen & Jason

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The Florios with the Gambian chiefs – Silafando’ – at Gaya Art Cafe, The Gambia


‘Silafando – a gift to you on behalf of my journey’ – photo exhibition opens 3rd April, 2015, in The Gambia, West Africa


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Jason Florio with two of his Gambian chiefs, Gaya Art Cafe, The Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio


One more day to go and we have almost completed the installation process of Jason Florio’s ‘Silafando‘ portraits, at Gaya Art Café, in The Gambia.


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The 930km walk route map, The Gambia, West Africa


Above is the route that we took, by foot, on ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – a 930km African odyssey‘, 2009, around the smallest mainland African country, where Jason took the formal portraits of the village chiefs – the alkalo’s – we stayed with each night, which will all be exhibited from tomorrow night, for one month.

The Gambian chiefs are coming home… at last.

We look forward to welcoming you to our journey – opening event, Fri 3rd April, 3-6pm, Gaya Art Cafe.

The Florio’s – Helen & Jason


A Short Walk in The Gambian Bush
The ‘Short Walk‘ expedition team: Samba Leigh (front), Momadou Cham, Helen Jones-Florio, Jason Florio, Ablie Janneh, and Neil & Paddy (our donkeys on kind loan from The Gambia Horse & Donkey Trust) – Makasutu Culture Forest, post walk, Dec 2009